Marlene Mc Donald returns to Cabinet in reshuffle

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 07:45

Sacked Housing and Urban Development Minister Marlene Mc Donald is set to make a return when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley makes a major Cabinet reshuffle shortly, the T&T Guardian understands. 

As the first anniversary of the People’s National Movement’s September 7 general election victory is observed today, sources yesterday confirmed Mc Donald is tipped to return to the Cabinet.

Speculation was rife that Mc Donald’s experience was being used when she appeared as the only non-Cabinet minister on Government’s high-profile team, led by Rowley, during last week’s crime meeting with the Opposition. 

She was also at the subsequent news conference held by the PM to detail the outcome of the meeting.

At least four ministers are expected to be affected by the imminent reshuffle, a source said.

The T&T Guardian was told Rowley was “obviously not happy” with the performance of some of his ministers and would be looking to ensure there were improvements in the coming year. 

The source said Government would effectively only have three years to ensure it was ready to seek re-election before the final year begins, and Rowley is keen to boost his party’s performance, especially in the face of negative survey results and ratings on its first year in office from various sectors of the public. 

“The Prime Minister is clearly not happy about the way some of his ministers have performed over the first year and would be seeking to make the required changes to ensure more effective delivery on the upcoming years,” the source insisted.

There is speculation that Mc Donald my be given the Ministry of Works portfolio, as sources said she was a good housing minister. 

Sources also said the prospect of National Gas Company chairman Gerry Brooks joining the Cabinet could become a reality. 

Changes were also likely in the Ministries of Health and Communications held by Terrence Deyalsingh and former newspaper editor Maxie Cuffie respectively. But they admitted the appointment could also depend on the Integrity Commission clearing Mc Donald following its current probe of allegations against her. 

During a radio interview on Sunday, Rowley had expressed his frustration at the length of time the integrity body was taking to probe a complaint by Fixin’ T&T that Mc Donald allegedly breached parliamentary rules when she hired her common-law spouse and his brother to work in her constituency office during the tenth parliamentary term at salaries above $10,000 each. 

Parliament pays the expenses of constituency offices and its rules forbid the hiring of relatives.

Rowley said: “In the spirit of integrity in public life, when allegations are made against public officials, especially parliamentarians, the Integrity Commission must act expeditiously to deal with those investigations, determine whether there’s a case to answer or whether the person’s name should be cleared and the person continue without a cloud. But those investigations are dragging on too long.”

The commission has since defended itself, saying the PM’s claim was unfair and he had no details to support his claim.

Government sources said yesterday the involvement of Mc Donald in the Government/Opposition crime talks and Rowley’s comment on the probe were all indications of his desire to have her return to the Cabinet. 

Calls to Mc Donald’s phone went unanswered yesterday.

Mc Donald’s history

Mc Donald was first elected MP for Port-of-Spain South on November 5, 2007, under then prime minister Patrick Manning, and was appointed community development, culture and gender affairs minister. She retained her seat three years later after Manning’s PNM lost a snap election on May 24, 2010.

After Rowley was appointed new PNM leader and Leader of the Opposition, he appointed Mc Donald to serve as deputy political leader and Chief Whip. She was re-elected to the House of Representatives on September 7, 2015 after the PNM was returned to power under Rowley. 

Four days later she was appointed minister of housing and urban development, a position she held until March 17, 2016, when she was removed from the Cabinet. She, however, retained her party position.

SOURCE: (Richard Lord)